When I think of great things, I think of England winning the World Cup in 1966; I think of the Lion King Soundtrack (the original – only the original); but most importantly, I think of bread sauce.
In the process of researching for this article, I have found that the majority of my peers have not had the pleasure of consuming this magnificent condiment. If you are one of these people, I am deeply sorry for you. The process itself is so simple: a mixture of breadcrumbs, milk, and aromatic spices is reduced down to a beautiful, creamy puree that can be slathered on a slice of usually dry and tasteless turkey, transforming it into an edible, and even an enjoyable dining experience. A favourite Boxing Day treat of mine is to generously spread the leftover bread sauce upon two slices of bread (double bread – who doesn’t love that?), stack the remaining leftovers in between, and then compress it so that you have the perfect pocket of Christmas. Stick that under the grill or in a toastie machine and you have yourself the ideal accompaniment to a heated game of family Pictionary.
Not only is it utterly delicious, but bread sauce is also an icon of British cuisine, a relic of the Middle Ages when leftover bread would be used as a thickening agent in sauces. This tradition has been passed down throughout the generations and is still served in hundreds of thousands of households across the United Kingdom. The Britishness of this wonderful and unique sauce is perfectly captured by celebrity chef and fairy godmother of Christmas, Nigella Lawson:
“The idea of bread sauce remains intensely baffling, possibly even disgusting, to any person who hasn’t been brought up with British traditions”
She hits the nail on the head: it is utterly baffling how a stodgy, seemingly tasteless goop would take its place amongst the titans of pigs in blankets and stuffing. And yet, it doesn’t just make it onto the plate; it shines, bringing together the disparate flavour combinations of the sprouts, the gravy, and the cranberry. It is the unsung hero, the glue that holds together the big hitters of a Christmas dinner with its subtle, fragrant flavour profile.
Why then does bread sauce seem to be falling out of fashion? Well, I have a theory – in the age of aesthetics when everything a person says, does or eats is posted on social media for the world to see, the humble bread sauce is just not pretty enough. Due to it looking like something you might use to put up your wallpaper, the brilliance of bread sauce is ignored – it simply is not good-looking enough for the constantly papped Christmas dinner plate.
Therefore, I have a plea – a simple request of Christmas goodwill: give bread sauce a chance. Give it an opportunity to grab your heartstrings like it has with me. Its history, its taste, and its underdog status are as British as Wetherspoons and as charming as Hugh Grant – what is not to love. On behalf of me and British cuisine, beg whoever has the thankless task of cooking your Christmas dinner this year to serve a simple bread sauce alongside it. I promise it will not disappoint.
Image: Nicole Michalou via Pexels